Christian Symbolism in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is hard to Find.”
In the story “A Good Man is Hard to find”, the central theme brought out by the author is Christianity. The author places emphasis on the manner in which people have neglected Christian beliefs and found solace in other things far from religion. It is evident that the author targets individuals who are yet to convert to the Christian faith. The author being a Christian tries to use the work to pass the real gospel to those that are yet to experience it. He gives a precise description of what Christianity is all about through the use of symbolism (Park Jai Young 512)
He is also concerned with the youths as well as their views regarding Christianity. Flannery argues that Christ is not an option or even a priority to people and instead, everyone needs Christ in their life. Flanner during his era views people as being evil and talks about it being hard to find a good man who has established roots in the Christian faith. He uses symbolism to demonstrate how hard it is to find a good person in his generation. A perfect act in the short story is the high southern heritage brought out by the grandmother (Park Jai Young 513)
People know the old woman not for anything but her dressing code. According to the author’s description, she dresses in a manner that makes sure that anyone who comes across her shall identify with her. Contrary to that, in the current generation one finds it difficult to distinguish between those of the male orientation and those of the female. In the modern age, the dressing code is no longer regarded as a way of differentiating those following the rules of Christianity and those who do not care about their spiritual life.
In the Flannery’s story, the grandmother is always talking the southern gentlemen who are courting her. The people who subscribe to the same religion as the grandmother seem to worship her since she is seen as being pious. She leads a life that defines her as a true advocate of the Christian gospel and the ways of the good book. Many youths around her find the life of strict Christian principles as being a tiresome one since they cannot follow the strict doctrines of the religion (Park Jai Young 517)
.In today’s world, most of those in the younger generation enjoy living a life with no regulations especially when it comes to matters of moral conduct. That aspect of life leads them into despising Christianity as a way of life. According to the author, the manner in which youths carry out their daily activities does not resemble the Christianity ways of doing things. Most would opt to be allowed the right of choice on whether to follow the set doctrines or not. They end up neglecting the rules of religion, hence differing in behavior with the real followers of religion.
Apart from the elderly woman, the author also uses the Misfit symbolically. The Misfit fits the bill of symbolism and has southern blood in her. However, she fails on the part despite the firm belief she has towards the southern hospitality. The legacy of the Misfit contributes significantly to the grandmother’s firm belief. Despite the grandmother’s firm belief in God, what propels her faith even more is the Misfit confrontation. In any case, if the grandmother does not consult the Misfit, she seems to loosen her faith (Bermel 59).
Having studied the piece one would positively conclude that the artist employs patterns. The major players appear to be in trouble, but they can see some hope. They take a different direction in life and encounter God’s redemption as a payment for the suffering. Many Christians have eventually considered her acts as morally unacceptable, but in the actual sense, she does this to promote God’s power. Misfit’s immoral behavior is used skillfully by the grandmother to boost her faith despite the fact that Christian view the Misfit as being corrupt (Bermel 58). Metamorphosis is evident in this particular story as well as in other stories by the same author. That is as a result of the behavior portrayed by the characters in his stories. The characters seem to have a bearing on the way the world views religion (Park Jai Young 512). The Grandma and the Misfit are the best examples of this. Their views towards Christianity differ with worldly assumptions.
From the story, Misfit experiences an inner struggle that leads to her behaving in a peculiar manner. The conversation with the grandmother proves that Misfit is always experiencing struggles. The author helps the reader understand the mind of the Misfit using the way in which he portrays his behavior. The key elements of his character enable one to understand her state of mind (Bermel 60). Misfit’s details, gesture, and her arguments show clearly that there is an inner force that controls her behavior.
From the understanding of the story, Misfit is used to represent the young generation that misguides people when it comes to religion. While, on the other hand, the author makes use of the grandma as a representation of the old generation that follows the rules of religion to the letter. The story resembles a missionary take off. It tries to emphasize the power of faith in one’s life. It addresses the power of God that is enjoyed by those strong in faith. Therefore, its main aim is to convert non-Christians and bring them to pool of Christianity (Bermel 60). Flannery probably had the idea of provoking the readers as well as capture their interest and direct them towards Christianity.
Flannery’s work can be said to be a simple story since it is an authentic depiction of everyday struggles. The themes in this story are used with the intention of provoking love for religion and its content. However, the end of the story brings out suspense. But, its rhythm and use of literature stylistic devices makes it an extraordinary story (Park Jai Young 525). The readers can easily connect with the story since the issues addressed are of fundamental value. Despite its plot being somehow illogical, the overall work is interesting to those who take the time to read the story.
The author places focus on the non-Christians as opposed to the believers. That is due to the usage the provoking characteristic that gets to those who do not take Christianity seriously. The use of Christian symbolism has made the story important, even for the believers. The argument remains; Christianity is not to be considered as an option or a priority. Therefore, people should embrace Christianity as a daily requirement in their lives.
Park Jai Young, ‘Christianity In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.”’ The Journal of English Language and Literature 54.4 (2008): 511-530.
Bermel, Joyce. ‘Ethical Memoirs: A Good Man Was Hard To Find: Once To Every Man, A Memoir, By William Sloane Coffin.’ Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 10.9 (1978): 58-60